Mission Australia warns that changes to the Commonwealth Disability Support Pension that will exclude many people with a history of substance misuse will have devastating consequences.

Mission Australia CEO Catherine Yeomans says that the changes will put already vulnerable people at greater risk and will not assist them to find employment and stability.

“The changes might bring the government small savings, but they come at an unacceptable social cost. Cutting payments and forcing people into mutual obligation requirements when they have a substance addiction will place them in a more dangerous situation of poverty and trauma,” said Ms Yeomans.

“When people with substance misues issues are unable to work, the threat of punishment will not be enough to help them get a job. The compliance system puts them at risk of having their limited income completely cut off and additional pressures such as unreasonable job search requirements may feed the cycle of addiction.”

“We see firsthand at our services how important it is to engage with people struggling with substance misuse. We know the success that treatment can have but we also see the pressure that people face when they can’t access treatment and are stuck in systems that don’t cater for their needs.”

“The people who will be cut off from accessing the Disability Support Pension have suffered functional impairment through excessive use of alcohol, illegal and prescription drugs or other harmful substances such as petrol. These are people who currently qualify as they have serious addictions and a genuine inability to seek work.”

“There are long waiting lists filled with people desperately seeking detoxification and rehabilitation services, which show that the treatment sector is overloaded. If the government’s objective is to support people into treatment then what is needed is adequate funding to provide treatment for everybody seeking it.”

“The Disability Support Pension criteria is already restrictive. To meet the current criteria you must be assessed to be not well enough to participate in work, study, training or job search activities for at least two years.”

“We call on all Senators to disallow the government’s reforms and instead support measures that provide real opportunities for rehabilitation to people facing substance addiction.”

“We know alcohol and drug addiction can be both a cause and a consequence of homelessness and we want to see an appropriate response to a real need in our community, not a further stigmatisation of vulnerable people,” she said.

Background

Mission Australia operates Triple Care Farm, a new state-of-the-art detox facility in NSW where young people aged 16 to 24 undertake a substance withdrawal and detoxification program that integrates a medical and therapeutic model. In 2016 8% of Triple Care Farm students received DSP.

Mission Australia also assists young people with substance misuse issues at the David Martin Place detox facility in NSW and the Drug and Alcohol Youth Service (DAYS) in Perth.

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Purpose - 'Inspired by Jesus Christ, Mission Australia exists to meet human need and to spread the knowledge of the love of God'